Reading Lee Woodruff's novel Those We Love Most was very apt timing. I've just started a writing class through UCLA Extension that is focused on writing through grief and trauma. The characters in Woodruff's novel are all caught in the middle of grief and trauma, when a child in the family is struck by a car and killed. The stories and perspectives in this novel could have been directly from some of the writings produced by my classmates.
When their young son is killed, Maura and Pete must not only face the loss of their child, but they're also confronted with guilt over their own personal failings that were happening prior to the accident. Maura has been having an affair with the local veterinary and Pete is a raging alcoholic. The story also follows Maura's parents, Margaret and Roger, who are also experiencing marital discord as Roger has been having an affair with a younger woman in Florida. The death in the family shakes them into examining what is really important.
As much as this is a story about managing grief, this is a story about making mistakes and owning up to them. The characters are all imperfect and flawed, but in a realistic way. You want to root for them to make the right decisions.
I love the theme of the story of when a person dies it makes you reflect on your own life. I've had this experience with every family death and although the death part of it is horrible and you miss your loved one, death has a great effect of making you reflect on what's important. It prompted me to make a bigger effort with family and friends. I became more spontaneous and traveled more. This is a story of people who have that epiphany.
I really liked the way that Woodruff wrote the storyline of Maura confronting the teenager that was driving the car that hit her son. The teen has had his life do a 180 and he is a mess. Although Maura is in immense pain and harbors plenty of anger towards him, she is also able to empathize and see how his life has been affected. She sees glimpses of her dead son in the teen.
Sometimes gritty, sometimes a bit sappy, but over all this book is a decent story that packs an emotional punch. It's a worthy read, especially if you're experiencing grief.